blog tour, books, reviews

The Big Chill – Doug Johnstone*

Haunted by their past, the Skelf women are hoping for a quieter life. But running both a funeral directors’ and a private investigation business means trouble is never far away, and when a car crashes into the open grave at a funeral Dorothy is conducting, she can’t help looking into the dead driver’s shadowy life. While Dorothy uncovers a dark truth at the heart of Edinburgh society, her daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah have their own struggles. Jenny’s ex-husband Craig is making plans that could shatter the Skelf women’s lives, and the increasingly obsessive Hannah has formed a friendship with an elderly professor that is fast turning deadly. But something even more sinister emerges when a drumming student of Dorothy’s disappears, and suspicion falls on her parents. The Skelf women find themselves immersed in an unbearable darkness – but could the real threat be to themselves? Fast-paced, darkly funny, yet touching and tender, the Skelf family series is a welcome reboot to the classic PI novel, whilst also asking deeper questions about family, society and grief.Doug Johnstone is the author of more ten novels, most recently Breakers (2019), which has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year and A Dark Matter (2020), which launched the Skelfs series. Several of his books have been bestsellers and award winners, and his work has been praised by the likes of Val McDermid, Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions – including a funeral home, which he drew on to write A Dark Matter – and has been an arts journalist for twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.

My thoughts:

The Skelfs are back. I loved Dark Matter, and this is an excellent sequel. Blackly comic and full of bathos, things pick up six months after the shocking events of the previous book and everyone is trying to move from murder and mayhem.

Hannah is still a mess (but I don’t blame her), Jenny is trying to keep her relationship with Liam alive, and Dorothy is sussing out things no one is paying her for. In short, business as usual for the multi-hypen family businesses.

With missing teenagers, tragic homeless people, a one eyed dog called Einstein and the ongoing trial of Craig, Hannah’s dad and Jenny’s ex to keep them occupied, the chaos continues.

Dorothy is still my favourite Skelf, with her drumming skills and determination to always find the truth. I love her friendship (and perhaps more) with copper Thomas, and her adopting yet more waifs and strays as the story unfolds.

I raced through the book with all its twists and turns, cannot wait for the next one, as there’s a cliffhanger or two at the end.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

2 thoughts on “The Big Chill – Doug Johnstone*”

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